BUSINESS

Greece told reform isn’t crazy as central bank warns of EU exit

France’s European commissioner, Pierre Moscovici, said requests being asked of Greece were far from “crazy,” amid the direst warnings yet from the Greek central bank chief about the consequences of failure to reach an accord.

Moscovici, a former French finance minister who is now European Union commissioner for economic affairs, said that a meeting of euro-area finance chiefs on Thursday will be “difficult” but aimed at moving forward. Contentious issues of sales-tax rates, pensions and the budget deficit will be discussed, he said.

“We are waiting for concrete measures on these three points. We are not asking for crazy things,” he said on Belgium’s RTL radio Wednesday. Yes, there is a need for a humanitarian program, he said, “but there must be also a reforms program, because we live in a global, market economy and the Greek economy can’t remain on the margins, like a make- believe economy.”

With positions entrenched before the ministers’ meeting in Luxembourg, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras let loose on his country’s creditors on Tuesday, saying that the International Monetary Fund bore “criminal responsibility” for Greece’s plight. IMF chief Christine Lagarde is due in Brussels later on Wednesday to deliver a speech on inequality.

In the absence of fresh proposals to break the deadlock and free up as much as 7.2 billion euros ($8.1 billion) in bailout aid, officials have said they see little chance of a breakthrough at Thursday’s meeting. Attention would then shift to a summit of EU leaders scheduled for June 25-26 in Brussels, just days before Greece’s bailout program expires at month’s end.

“Failure to reach an agreement would, on the contrary, mark the beginning of a painful course that would lead initially to a Greek default and ultimately to the country’s exit from the euro area and –- most likely -– from the European Union,” Bank of Greece Governor Yannis Stournaras said in a report Wednesday. [Bloomberg]

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